Image of Richard Brinsley Sheridan


Lifetime: 1751 - 1816 Passed: ≈ 207 years ago


Irish Satirist, Politician, Playwright



Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan was an Irish satirist, a politician, a playwright, poet, and long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He is known for his plays such as The Rivals, The School for Scandal, The Duenna and A Trip to Scarborough. He was also a Whig MP for 32 years in the British House of Commons for Stafford (1780–1806), Westminster (1806–1807), and Ilchester (1807–1812). He is buried at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. His plays remain a central part of the canon and are regularly performed worldwide. 

Sheridan was born in 1751 in Dublin, Ireland, where his family had a house on then fashionable Dorset Street. 


While his family was in Dublin, Richard attended the English Grammar School in Grafton Street. In 1758, when he was seven years old, the Sheridans moved permanently to England. 


He was a pupil at Harrow School from 1762 to 1768. At the end of his 1768 school year, his father employed a private tutor, Lewis Ker, to direct his studies in his father's house in London, while Domenico Angelo instructed him in fencing and horsemanship. 

In 1772, aged 20 or 21, Sheridan fought two duels with Captain Thomas Mathews, who had written a newspaper article defaming the character of Elizabeth Ann Linley, whom Sheridan intended to marry. 


In 1775 Sheridan's first play, The Rivals, was produced at London's Covent Garden Theatre. It was a failure on its first night. Sheridan cast a more capable actor in the lead for its second performance, and it was a huge success, immediately establishing the young playwright's reputation and the favour of fashionable London. It went on to become a standard of English literature. 


Shortly after the success of The Rivals, Sheridan and his father-in-law Thomas Linley the Elder, a successful composer, produced the opera The Duenna. This piece, warmly received, played for seventy-five performances. 


His most famous play, The School for Scandal, premiered at Drury Lane on 8 May 1777. It is considered one of the greatest comedies of manners in English. It was followed by The Critic (1779), an updating of the satirical Restoration play The Rehearsal. 


In 1780, Sheridan entered the House of Commons as the ally of Charles James Fox on the side of the American Colonials in the political debate of that year. He is said to have paid the burgesses of Stafford five guineas apiece to allow him to represent them. As a consequence, his first speech in Parliament was a defence against the charge of bribery. 


In 1787 Sheridan demanded the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India. His speech in the House of Commons was described by Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox, and William Pitt as the greatest ever delivered in ancient or modern times. 


In 1793, during the debates on the Aliens Act designed to prevent French Revolutionary spies and saboteurs from flooding into the country, Edmund Burke made a speech in which he claimed there were thousands of French agents in Britain ready to use weapons against the authorities. To dramatically emphasise his point he threw down a knife onto the floor of the House of Commons. Sheridan shouted, 'Where's the fork?', which led to much of the house collapsing in laughter. 


In December 1815 Sheridan became ill and was largely confined to bed. He died in poverty. However, dukes, earls, lords, viscounts, the Lord Mayor of London, and other notables attended his funeral, and he was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Books by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The School For Scandal Cover image

The School For Scandal

Comedy Fiction Drama
Play Society Gossips

The School for Scandal is a comedy of manners written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre on 8 May 1777.

A Wife Cover image

A Wife

Poems Verses Fortnightly

Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan was an Irish playwright and poet. In this little gem, he turns an intended insult on its head.

Rivals Cover image


The play is set in Bath in the 18th century, a town legendary for conspicuous consumption and fashion at the time. Wealthy, fashionable people went there to "take the waters", which were believed to have healing properties. The plot centres on the tw...